Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is now the leading antimicrobial-resistant organism of concern to clinicians worldwide. Preventing and controlling the increase and spread of MRSA within the health-care environment is therefore an important function of the infection control team. The prevention and control of MRSA requires strict use of both Standard and Additional Precautions, which include good hand hygiene practices, judicious antimicrobial prescribing, and source isolation. While few would dispute the need for these precautions for preventing the spread of MRSA and other infections, their use may result in adverse physical and psychological effects for the patient. In an age of quality and safety of health care, ensuring infection control practice such as source isolation and contact precautions adhere to fundamental human rights is paramount. This paper presents a review of the literature on the patient experience of source isolation for MRSA or other infectious diseases. The review yielded five major interconnected themes: (1) psychological effects of isolation; (2) coping with isolation; (3) social isolation; (4) communication and information provision; and (5) physical environment and quality of care. It found that the experience of isolation by patients has both negative and positive elements. Isolation may result in detrimental psychological effects including anxiety, stress and depression, but may also result in the patient receiving less or substandard care. However, patients may also benefit from the quietness and privacy of single rooms. Nurses and other healthcare workers must look for ways to improve the experience of isolation and contact precautions of patients in source isolation. Opportunities exist in particular in improving the environment and the patient's self-control of the situation and in providing adequate information.